photo & text by nacrowe
it is hard to overstate the importance of the former HACIENDA nightclub in MANCHESTER cofounded by NEW ORDER and their manager ROB GRETTON, as well as FACTORY RECORDS label head TONY WILSON, in the early 1980s. the documentary THE HACIENDA: THE CLUB THAT SHOOK BRITAIN (WISE OWL, 2022) recently featured on BBC2 delves into that unique legacy of this unique nightclub decades on. initially THE HACIENDA was meant to recapture the energetic, all-inclusive vibe of the MANHATTAN nightclubs that NEW ORDER members had witnessed while on tour immediately in the wake of the abrupt fall of JOY DIVISION. unlike the stuffy nightclub scene in ENGLAND at the time, where people drank lager and paraded themselves around in the hopes means of finding company, the point of the NYC scene was a fun night out with enjoyment of the music at the center of the agenda. it was also created with the hope of providing a center to a new generation of MANCHESTER artists and musicians.
THE HACIENDA came out around the time of early SYNTH-POP but a few years later dovetailed with the rise of HOUSE MUSIC out of DETROIT that when paired with the new drug ECSTASY essentially created ACID HOUSE. with THE HACIENDA at the epicenter there was a brief moment where the culture shifted towards an inclusive, comes-as-you-are mentality with participants felt a sense of unity and collective humanity through rhythm, motion and dance music. even INDIE ROCK got pulled into the orbit of ACID HOUSE with MADCHESTER bands like the HAPPY MONDAYS and THE STONE ROSES borrowing both aesthetic and sonic elements from the local scene. OASIS are considered a traditional BRITPOP rock band that borrowed heavily from classic BRITISH INVASION bands, but no less an authority as NOEL GALLAGHER spoke about in this film about the way the scene opened him up to all music.
and that seems to be the point of the film. it was not about the bad business decisions that led to its creation or the fact that its demise ruined relationships with NEW ORDER. the real legacy of THE HACIENDA was how it liberated those who came in its confines and provided safe harbor for discriminated minority groups. in so many ways it was a UTOPIA that was destined to fail, but its run is still felt and missed to this day by those fortunate enough to participate.
lately i discovered the FRENCH ELECTRONIC MUSIC DJ/producer PIERRE-ALEXANDRE BUSSON, a.k.a. YUKSEK, and ive been entranced ever since by his EXPANSIVE and ENERGETIC productions. for me ELECTROPOP and DANCE MUSIC in general is pretty touch and go, it either works or it doesnt. and with YUKSEK there is a SPONTANEOUS, KINETIC energy that i find particularly motivating when im at the gym on my last mile on some hamster wheel torture device. i could talk about its construction or used of extreme dynamics and SEAMLESS integration of ENGROSSING collaborations, but in the end all that matters is that it "slaps" (as the kids say).
and this it does. YUKSEK is definitely worth checking out.
first off, love the title. no such thing as a bad literary allusion in my estimation. celebrated AMERICAN ELECTRONIC DANCE musician/composer MOBY is distantly related to HERMAN MELVILLE, so yeah MOBY DOC (GREENWICH ENTERTAINMENT, 2021) is a clever knowing wink and unsubtle nod to his literary namesake. and that self-referential aesthetic makes sense given that MOBY here is writing and directing his own documentary where he is the subject. so he has fun playing with the MEDIUM (INTERVIEWS, AUDIENCE EXPECTATIONS, VOICE-OVER-NARRATION, SPECIAL EFFECTS, FLASHBACKS, REENACTMENTS, etc.) and you can tell. in essence he is less concerned with traditional audience expectations regarding the documentary format and more concerned with producing an EXTENDED MEDITATION on the NATURE OF SUCCESS and CELEBRITY from the perspective of a HARDCORE outcast growing up poor in a broken home in suburban CONNECTICUT.
what is the meaning of that pursuit? what is gained once such is achieved?
MOBY DOC almost feels like a subject walking you through an experiential approximation of what it is like to go from OBSCURITY to STARDOM. he does this through a spaceship visual metaphor that seemingly highlights both the propulsive skyrocketing DISORIENTATION of having success but also the DISCONNECTION and ISOLATION that comes with such. it is pretty TOUCHING. and similarly with his memoir PORCELAIN (review linked HERE), which chronicles the same probing EXISTENTIAL and METAPHYSICAL themes found in his music and this film, there is a similar capacity for being incredibly forthright and exacting about specific past PERSONAL FAILINGS. such as missing his mother's funeral due to being INCAPACITATED from a night of heavy drinking. MOBY is keenly aware of the SEDUCTIVE draw of fame and notoriety since he lived it and is open about such which makes the running thesis of the film (the NATURE OF SUCCESS and FAME) that much more powerful. the book deals with his career pre-PLAY, but the film goes right to the present.
and at stake is this idea of the sheer INSANITY having your sense of IDENTITY and SELF-WORTH not rooted, nourished and sustained by the music itself, but by the reaction to such by the public and the press. and how FICKLE both are and how PERSONALLY and PSYCHICALLY DEVASTATING it is to lose such external AFFIRMATION. i cant even imagine the DISORIENTATION. drugs and alcohol seem like LOGICAL responses to null and void that EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER, irrespective of which peak or trough you found yourself in. i get it.
for MOBY his GROUNDING INFLUENCE since childhood seemingly is his love of animals. they dont judge, the just exist. the just are. and he pays back in kind with his VEGANISM and his ANIMAL RIGHTS ADVOCACY. and you cant really argue with him on that. VEGANS are MORALLY SUPERIOR. they are making choices on a HIGHER ETHICAL PLANE than the rest of us. we know it. i know it. but he doesnt go about it on a moral crusade, its a PERSONAL CHOICE that he is sharing with the rest of us.
i very much enjoyed this film and its DAVID LYNCH and GARY BASEMAN cameos. its thoughtfully constructed and executed, not just from a cinematic perspective, but from a humanistic one as well. you feel you get a better sense of MOBY and where he's coming from.
being a 90s kid, whenever i thought of SWEDISH pop music growing up the first thing that came to mind was ACE OF BASE, early ROBYN or really, anything touched by MAX MARTIN in general. i adore ROBYN's later reemergence in the 2000s and what she is doing currently, but way back then there was something particularly antiseptic and overly polished about exported SWEDISH pop music.
singer-songwriter TOVE LO feels like an EVOLUTION or two beyond such traditions and has a sound and image that is both INCLUSIVE and entirely TRANSGRESSIVE. in others listening to her brand of ART POP feels of the moment and quintessentially modern. her lyrics are both confessional and empowering and she embodies a sense of body positivity that is fearless and entirely unconventional among singers of any and all genders.
i believe strongly that TOVE LO is someone to keep an eye out on in the future and is most definitely worth checking out.
parody by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the BRITISH ELECTRONIC DANCE MUSIC juggernaut THE PRODIGY!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
i became aware of the ENGLISH electronic INDIE ROCK outfit IS TROPICAL years ago when their insane "THE GREEKS" video came out, which still holds up with its make-believe violence and cartoon gore. reminds me of being a kid again.
their music definitely splits the difference between INDIE ROCK-inspired DANCE music that induces a carefree sense of general abandonment. definitely worth checking out.
if you are fan of music then you already know about NILE RODGERS. he is arguably one of the great composers, arrangers and musicians of the 20th century with a list of musical collaborations that spans from DAVID BOWIE, SISTER SLEDGE, DEBORAH HARRY, MADONNA and BRYAN FERRY to AVICII, DURAN DURAN, DAFT PUNK, GRACE JONES, THE B-52s and even his legendary 70s outfit CHIC. he is very much a musician's musician and no less a guitar-playing connoisseur than JOHNNY MARR named his son after him. just let that one sink in for a moment.
but until recently his public profile was behind the scenes in production.
the documentary NILE RODGERS: THE HITMAKER (BBC, 2013) is attempt to change all that. filmed during a break from rehearsing for a worldwide CHIC tour at time he was fighting prostate cancer, this film very much feels like an opportunity for the man and his admirers to give their props should the worst happen (thankfully he survived and continues to work to present day).
and survive the dude has. raised by heroin-addicted, bohemian parents in MANHATTAN, he grew up intimately aware of street life and drug culture along with the lexicon of music by devouring his parents JAZZ and CLASSICAL vinyl records. their is an aspirational quality to the uplifting, kinetic rhythms of CHIC and their escapist messaging to the audience of the emerging DISCO scene all over NYC. their is an almost symbiotic relationship between his guitar work and the pulsing, driving FUNK rhythms of bassist and collaborator BERNARD EDWARDS. They rode that initial wave in the late 1970s until the xenophobic, anti-BLACK and anti-LGBT DISCO SUX wave effectively stopped them in the their tracks. this led to his production career which was jumpstarted by DAVID BOWIE with the "LET'S DANCE" record basically has sustained him since as an in-demand writer, arranger, composer, guest musician and producer.
what i appreciated most about this film was how past collaborators spoke of his uncanny ear to see space in a mix where he could contribute a guitar line or texture. these small contributions are the details that make a record pop and although maybe unnoticed by your average listener, these are the sonic details that musicians strive to achieve in the studio. they notice. participants included that of BRYAN FERRY, JOHNNY MARR, DEBBIE HARRY and CHRIS STEIN of BLONDIE, JOHN TAYLOR of DURAN DURAN, STEVE WINWOOD, LA ROUX, NORMA JEAN WRIGHT of CHIC and NILE RODGERS himself.
I think it is touching that this documentary was showcased before his biggest hit in decades, "GET LUCKY" by FRENCH electronic duo DAFT PUNK, was released to worldwide admiration. just proves the dude always has something up his sleeve.
i first came across the powerhouse voice of BRITISH singer LOUISE ROSE ALAN, aka FOXES, when she was on an episode of BALCONY TV shot on the roof of the old [the end] studio in GREENPOINT (and mixed by BRIAN of DEER GOD) back in 2013. i remember being abroad in ALBANIA at the time scrolling through dozens of BALCONY TV episodes and just being knocked out by her presence and intense vocals. it was like, who is sheeee?
i know across the pond she is known for her infectious DANCE POP sound, but in all honesty i find the stripped down sessions that focus on her powerful voice to be more representative of her range as a vocalist. because of our past live mixing work, we included her in our DEER GOD RADIO episode back in MARCH 2019 dedicated all THE ARISTS WE'VE RECORDED, FILMED, OR MIXED.
currently she is in the lab cooking up new sounds. i invite you to check out her music. enjoy.
ROBYN is my spirit animal.
it took me a while to come around to dance music in general. i went through baby steps with artists like KYLIE MINOGUE and BJORK, but discovering norwegian singer/producer ROBYN in the late 00's during the impressive second wave of her career was a revelation.
it was probably the first time i heard modern pop music that was really affecting, triumphant yet melancholy. her conviction, range and energy is just downright contagious. in an industry where talent, especially young females, are constantly discarded for the new shiny object, ROBYN has proven to be quite the survivor, even becoming an in-demand producer and songwriter in her own right.
just great songwriting and incredible pop hooks sung with a sense of earnest heart-on-sleeve conviction with a very welcoming, inclusive vibe. a little hard to believe that this is from the same country that gave us BLACK METAL, which is essentially the inverse of that vibe.